Sjow on How to Mulligan with Patron Warrior
May 27 2015
Patron Warrior bursted out into the meta with the release of Blackrock Mountain. The first successful versions of the deck were made by players like Senfglas and Fuoliver and most variations were certainly more combo-oriented then modern Patron lists. Streamers then began playing the deck and eventually other pros began to adopt it as well. The deck has changed a lot since the first version and is now much more refined for tournament play and high level ladder. In fact, the vast majority of top players now regard it as the best deck in the game.
My goal for this article is to go through each of the matchups and give you an idea of what to look for in an opening hand. For each of the nine classes I'm going to give the four cards you most want to see. That said, you shouldn't follow this guide blindly. A best thing you can do is have a perfect curve: if you have a two, three, and four drop already don't be afraid to throw away your second two or three drop. Using all your mana crystals effectively every turn has always been a winning concept in Hearthstone.
Here is the list I currently run and am basing my mulligan decisions on.
Class Specific Mulligans
DruidEven though Combo Druid isn't popular in the current meta, it's still the top Druid deck so that's the matchup we're going to focus on: the other Druid decks are Taunt Ramp Druid and Fatigue Druid. Against Taunt Druids, we play and mulligan the same with the exception of not playing around combo; therefore, we can play it slower and use Execute on specific targets like Ancient of Wars. Against Combo Druid you wanna play proactive: make your opponent play reactively to your minions and not the other way around. Death's Bite, Acolyte of Pain, and Fiery War Axe are the top cards to keep against Druids.
Death's Bite takes the top slot since it has a built in Whirlwind effect and setting up a big Grim Patron-Inner Rage turn five can just outright win you the game against Druid. Acolyte of Pain is our best three drop against Druid because it disrupts Druid's curve because of how threatening he can be. Many times Druid will Wrath Acolyte instead of playing a minion.
The ideal answer is a Keeper of the Grove Silence but even then you can utilize the 1/3 body as a Battle Rage enabler. Fiery War Axe is good but not essential in this matchup because they tend to be slower. That said, having it on turn two is always a very powerful start. Loot Hoarder, Armorsmith, and Frothing Berserker all fill the last slot as they are a strong way to be proactive early.
Druid matchups are slower so this is your dream hand. Grim Patron on turn five with Inner Rage and a Death's Bite Whirlwind effect will outright win you most games.
PriestWithout receiving much help from Blackrock Mountain, Priest is really falling off on the ladder. If you do face some Priests, however, try and find Fiery War Axe, Acolyte of Pain, Death's Bite, and Loot Hoarder.
The staple Fiery War Axe has many targets in the Priest deck with Northshire Cleric, Zombie Chow, and Twilight Whelp. If you are lucky or your opponent is very greedy, then a Fiery War Axe could even snag an Injured Blademaster or team up with Acolyte to kill a Dark Cultist. As always, Death's Bite can clean up whatever is too big for the War Axe and set up a Patron turn when you're ready. Loot Hoarder takes the final slot here because he's low impact and comes down early.
HunterAgainst Hunter the mulligan goes pretty much the same regardless of their exact build. The most important concept is that you never want to fall behind on tempo early. Fiery War Axe, Cruel Taskmaster, Armorsmith, and Death's Bite are the perfect cards to achieve this goal.
The power of Fiery War Axe here should be pretty clear as Knife Jugglers and Mad Scientists must die on sight. Cruel Taskmaster makes an appearance here because he is the perfect answer to Leper Gnome or the other 2/1 minions in Face Hunter. Armorsmith is not usually an ideal two drop because it can usually get more value later; that said, it is still better than Hero Powering on turn two. Death's Bite rounds out the mulligans section because it is the best answer we have to an Animal Companion on turn three.
With weapons and a way to survive the early game, this hand is the perfect Hunter counter.
RogueWhile Rogue is also falling off in terms of popularity, Oil Rogue is still the class's top archetype. Rogue is an interesting matchup for Patron Warrior as they are one of the few decks that can match our explosive potential. When determining your opening hand against Rogue keep an eye out for Death's Bite, Fiery War Axe, Acolyte of Pain, and Armorsmith.
While both weapons are important Death's Bite gets the edge over Fiery War Axe in this case because of how easily it deals with Rogue's more expensive minions: Violet Teacher, Azure Drake, and Sludge Belcher. Fiery War Axe -- while slightly less important than the Death's Bite -- should be kept in the Rogue matchups because it lines up well with Rogue's three Health three drops in Earthen Ring Farseer and SI:7 Agent. Acolyte and Armorsmith round out the ideal hand as they provide the cards and Armor which Rogues have a hard time cutting through.
MageThe most common Mages right now are Tempo Mage and Mech Mage as far as ladder goes. The other options are Freeze, Echo Mage, Majordomo, or some variety of Control Mage. You should always mulligan for Tempo Mage, however, since it's most common if your opponent is unknown. The two weapons, Loot Hoarder, and Armorsmith are what you want in this matchup.
Fiery War Axe is really needed to shut down the early game. This is a matchup you mostly lose by getting rushed down. Death's Bite is less good than Fiery but kills their best minion in Flamewaker and most other early game threats. Loot Hoarder -- if you don't have a Fiery War Axe -- card can shut down a Sorcerer's Apprentice on turn two and forces your opponent to ping it instead of developing their board. I have Armorsmith listed as the final card to look for here but really anything to fill out your curve is worth keeping.
This hand strikes the perfect balance between a disruptive early game and a solid mid game.
ShamanShaman is another struggling class presently and Mechs are the only real way to go. Fiery War Axe, Death's Bite, Acolyte of Pain, and Loot Hoarder are what you want in the matchup since most of it comes down to stabilizing early and then cleaning up the Fel Reaver.
Fiery War Axe is the number one weapon for this matchup as it cleans up Mechwarper, Whirling Zap-o-matic, and the other one and two drops before they get out of hand. Acolyte and Loot Hoarder are keeps in this matchup because they can help against smaller minions and the main goal of the matchup is to escape the first few turns outside of burn range.
PaladinMidrange Paladin is currently the most popular Paladin build but Aggro and Dragon Paladin decks are also beginning to make waves. Luckily for us, however, most of them open in similar fashions so our mulligan choices should be unchanged. Fiery War Axe is the go-to in this matchup with Acolyte of Pain, Death's Bite, and Armorsmith or Whirlwind rounding out the other top keeps.
The way for you to lose this matchup is to get rushed down and having Fiery War Axe for Knife Juggler or Zombie Chow is the best way to crush a Paladin's early game. Acolyte is next up and will almost always get you a double draw and pop a shield. Having this early game will ensure you never get card starved later in the game. Death's Bite is good but not as good as in other matchups since it usually comes out too late for u to kill off Muster Recruits before Quartermaster. Armorsmith and Whirlwind, however, are good at cleaning up Recruits so keep one of them if you can.
The only way to lose the matchup is to get rushed down having all the early game answer will make your mid game transition smooth.
WarlockOf the three types of Warlock we commonly see on ladder Zoo and Handlock are the most popular with Malygod Warlock in a rather distant third. As always for Warlock matchups it is best to mulligan for Zoo until you recognize a player as being on Handlock.
Against Zoo the cards you are looking to keep should be fairly obvious: Fiery War Axe, Death's Bite, Acolyte of Pain, and Armorsmith are your strong starters. The weapons will curve nicely into each other and help keep the board under control in the opening turns. Acolyte is good early as it will either Taunt a 3/X minion or gain significant card advantage if Zoo is on a start with Voidwalkers and Haunted Creeper. Armorsmith is also powerful because she is rather hard to remove early for Zoo. With most of Zoo's minions falling in the one to three Attack range, an Armorsmith can cause them some real trouble.
Handlock is a hard matchup for Patron and the first cards on the keep list really illustrate this fact: Execute is number one followed by Big Game Hunter, Acolyte of Pain, and Death's Bite. Without Shield Slam Patron Warrior really struggles with the Giants an high Health minions out of Handlock so it relies on Execute and BGH early. Acolyte of Pain and Death's Bite are just generally good cards and keeping a Death's Bite can help set you up to combo earlier.
WarriorRegardless of whether you are playing against Control Warrior or the mirror your mulligans when you see Warrior should be the same. In these matchups you want to be keeping Death's Bite, Acolyte of Pain, Fiery War Axe, adn Grim Patron.
Death's Bite, as in other matchups, is great against the Warrior decks because it sets up for a strong Patron on turn five while likely killing an Acolyte or Armorsmith along the way. Acolyte of Pain is another strong card in this matchup because the ways to remove it are fairly limited and card advantage is crucial in any mirror. Just as Acolyte is important for us to keep Fiery War Axe is important to remove opposing Acolytes. Finally there is the namesake card of the deck. Outside of Brawl or Commanding Shout -- which are not always played -- Warrior has a very hard time dealing with Grim Patron. Patron is even better going first because if you can go Death's Bite into Patron first on turn five their Death's Bite will look embarrassingly bad.
Assuming, for example, that we are playing against Tempo Mage. We have Cruel Taskmaster to serve as a two drop. We will not, however, be keeping him because his Battlecry will struggle to find a target. Dropping Taskmaster as a two drop without the Battlecry is actually not that bad because it trades with Sorcerer's Apprentice and Mad Scientist. Since we have many other twos in the deck we are most likely going get one of them instead so I would mulligan Cruel Taskmaster. Whirlwind is good but it needs some backup so I wouldn't keep it. Death's Bite is a keep even though it can be slow against a fast curve from the Mage. That said, it's still better than the average cards we get and starts a good mid game.
Conclusion, only keep Death's Bite.
Let's say that here we are playing against Zoo. We have the Armorsmith-Cruel Taskmaster synergy so we can Coin out Armorsmith and then have a Cruel Taskmaster follow up. This is one of the rare cases where keeping Cruel Taskmaster is fine because it fits the curve and can combat even the faster decks with minion trading. This combo is only keepable because we have the Coin so don't try this on the play.
Throw away the other two cards for now.
For the sake of argument we can say that this hand is against Paladin but it doesn't really matter. Fiery War Axe and Acolyte of Pain are the idea two-three drops in any matchup so we are keeping those for sure. Grim Patron is a tempting keep given the strength of the other two cards but we should send him back. This hand has no immediate support for Patron so it's best to draw him later.
Playing against Hunter the weapons are both strong keeps. Fiery War Axe will help to clear out the early minions and Death's Bite with the Coin gives us an answer to Animal Companion on their third turn. Whirlwind can be a strong card but it should only be kept if you know your opponent is playing Face Hunter.
Against Druid the Execute is a very tempting keep to deal with Innervated minions. It should be thrown back though because most of Druid's early plays will usually consist of either a Stealthed Shade of Naxxramas or a Shredder. Warsong Commander is of course a card we only want to draw with more mana later on. That brings us to the Unstable Ghoul. While Unstable Ghoul is far from the ideal two drop, it is so important in the Druid matchups to have an early minion that we need to keep him regardless.
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